Friday, August 31, 2012

Special Needs Kids Staying in Traditional Schools

Special Needs Kids Staying in Traditional Schools

The high cost of educating students with special needs is disproportionately falling on traditional public schools as other students increasingly opt for alternatives that aren’t always readily open to those requiring special education.
The issue is particularly acute in districts where enrollment has declined due to demographic changes such as low birth rates and population shifts combined with an influx of charter schools and voucher programs that have siphoned off students.
School district officials say all schools that receive public funds should share the cost of special education.
“It raises an ethical responsibility question,” said Eric Gordon, chief executive officer of Cleveland Metropolitan School District. “We welcome our students with special needs, but the most expensive programming is on public districts.”
In Cleveland, the district has lost 41 percent of its students since 1996 while its proportion of students with special needs rose from 13.4 percent to 22.9 percent last year. In Milwaukee, enrollment has dropped by nearly 19 percent over the past decade, but the percentage of students with disabilities has risen from 15.8 percent in 2002 to 19.7 percent in 2012.
Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest system with 665,000 students, has seen enrollment slide by 8.5 percent since 2005-06, while its special needs population has increased from 11 percent to 13 percent.
The U.S. Department of Education’s office of civil rights is investigating charter school practices relating to students with disabilities in five districts around the country, said Russlyn Ali, assistant secretary of civil rights. The probes, which look at admissions, curriculum and accommodation of needs, are the first of their kind, said Ali, who would not release the names of the districts.
While the number of students with special needs has not increased, the rising proportion has driven up costs for cash-strapped schools. Special education, which requires speech pathologists, psychologists and trained teachers, and sometimes special facilities and equipment, can cost four times more than general education. Federal funds only cover a fraction of the extra expense.
Public Schools of Philadelphia, for example, spent $9,100 per regular education pupil in 2009, $14,560 per pupil with milder disabilities and $39,130 for more severe disabilities, according to a consultant’s report that compared special education costs. Other districts cited report similar numbers: Los Angeles Unified spent $6,900 to school a regular education student, $15,180 for a pupil with milder disabilities and $25,530 for a child with significant needs.
With budget shortfalls creating staffing crunches and federal law requiring putting children with disabilities in regular classrooms when possible to remove the stigma and encourage diversity, general education teachers now may find a number of pupils with special needs in their classes.
“There used to be one or two. You’d sit them at the front of the class, but now there are 10 or 12,” said Barbara Schulman, an Orange County special education teacher who heads the California Teachers Association’s special education committee. “Teachers need to know what they’re doing.”
Most charter, parochial and magnet schools serve children with disabilities, but they are often milder disabilities, leaving the brunt of students with significant needs in traditional district schools.
Special needs enrollment in Philadelphia district schools and charters is roughly 14 percent, but about half the district’s pupils with special needs have severe disabilities compared to about a third for charters.
Charter proponents say schools do not turn away kids with disabilities or ask if an applicant has disabilities, which is illegal, and note that in six states — Nevada, Wyoming, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania — charters serve more pupils with special needs than local districts
As districts increasingly offer other options, kids with disabilities are not enrolling in the alternatives at the same rate. Some parents may feel their child is better served with a traditional public school, said Ursula Wright, interim president and chief executive of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.
“Charter schools give all parents opportunities for choices. Sometimes the choice is not to select a charter school,” she said.
Some charters, such as Partnership to Uplift Communities, have made serving special needs their mission. The Los Angeles charter organization has special needs enrollment ranging from 9 percent to 17 percent at its 13 schools.
Many charters have been reluctant to tackle special education because they lack expertise, but that is starting to change, said Kaye Ragland, who heads special education for the Partnership.
Districts have started to reach out to charters to collaborate more on special education. Some, like Los Angeles Unified, are training charter teachers. Denver Public Schools has gone further.
Two years ago, the district requested that charter operators agree to a mission of equity in schools and included clauses in charter contracts stipulating that they must install programs for severe special needs if required.
Aided by district-provided training and funding, several charter operators now host centers specializing in autism, emotional disturbance and cognitive delay, serving 15 percent of the district’s students with significant needs. More centers are in the works, said John Simmons, executive director of student services for Denver schools.
“We want to realize this idea of equity between traditional district schools and non-traditional schools. It’s about looking at schools on a level playing field,” he said.
Parents like Matthew Asner, whose 9-year-old son with autism attends a traditional Los Angeles Unified school, hope the issue gets figured it out soon. He’d like the fourth-grader to go to charter middle and high schools, but knows it’s a challenge to find one that accommodates autistic students and has openings.
“I don’t think we’ve got a good handle on this,” said Asner, who is executive director of Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization. “We don’t want to see this kind of exclusion.”

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Reconnecting with My Mother: A CP Child’s Story

Reconnecting with My Mother: A CP Child’s Story
By Jennifer Resetar
Writing for CP Family Network

This blog is based purely on my experience as someone who has grown up with cerebral palsy and has endured hardships and overcome them. I hope my story can help parents of disabled children learn how to love and accept them and encourage them to pursue their dreams.

My Story
I grew up as the only person in my family with a disability. I don’t want to use the word severe, as my cerebral palsy is not as severe as some cases. Due to my disability, my adoptive mother (who was 23 years old when she adopted me) was always stressed out. I was never very close to her until after I got married. She even ‘bullied’ me to an extent.

When I visited her in 2009, she said something I will never forget. I confronted her about why we were never close and she said, “I gave my all physically, but I could not give my heart.” This didn’t hurt me as I thought it would. Instead, it answered my question of “Why?” Why was I never close to her? Why did I always feel put down by her?

As a result of my childhood experience, I want to encourage other families with children with disabilities to be accepting. Don’t baby them so much when they are older, but encourage them, push them to do their best to achieve their goals in life. One thing my mother always did was push me. I did not see this as a positive thing until recently, but I am glad she did. It is also good to let your child know that it is not his/her fault for having the disability. Patience is another good tool to have; be patient with your child. And lastly, if your child has siblings that do not have disabilities, teach them how to be accepting of their brother or sister with a disability. If they attend the same school, teach that sibling to stick up for their brother or sister when they are being bullied or picked on by other kids.

I am proud to say that today, my mother and I are now close and she is one of my biggest supporters in my many endeavors. I hope this blog helps parents, both new and seasoned, to understand that if your child has a disability whether physical or mental, they can still achieve their goals, whatever those goals may be. Please, support and encourage them as much as you can. I promise you, your child will thrive with support and encouragement!

About the Author
Jennifer R. Resetar lives in Orlando, Florida. She is pursuing her dream of becoming an author and has one book published. She enjoys standing up for and helping others with disabilities.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

History of Paralympic Games

In 1948, a hospital outside London witnessed the birth of the Paralympic movement, as a Jewish doctor who had fled Nazi Germany sought to change the lives of patients with spinal injuries -- and inspire new hope in them through sport.

The first "Stoke Mandeville Games" were organized in 1948 to coincide with the London Olympics, the second to be held in Britain.

Named for the hospital in Buckinghamshire where Prof. Ludwig Guttmann's pioneering spinal injuries unit was based, the competitors in those initial Games -- 14 men and two women -- took part in a wheelchair archery contest.
Many were military veterans injured on the battlefields of World War II.

Just a year later, six teams competed at Stoke Mandeville -- with wheelchair netball, a forerunner of wheelchair basketball, being introduced -- as sport became a central part of a rehabilitation process that had been revolutionized by Guttmann.

In 1956, a "statement of intent" was unveiled for the Games, which were by this time international, according to to the Mandeville Legacy website run by the local authority.

It read: "The aim of the Stoke Mandeville Games is to unite paralyzed men and women from all parts of the world in an international sports movement, and your spirit of true sportsmanship today will give hope and inspiration to thousands of paralyzed people."

Four years later, inspired by Guttmann's vision, the first official Paralympic Games were held in Rome in tandem with the Olympics.

And five decades on, some 4,280 Paralympians from 165 countries -- the largest number ever -- have returned to Britain to compete in what is now the premier international sporting event for those born with disabilities, or disabled by injury or illness.

In an echo of those first Stoke Mandeville Games, a number of those competing are military veterans, this time wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Blinded in Afghanistan
The United States' 227-member 2012 Paralympic team includes 20 military veterans and active-duty service members, almost 10% of the total.
Among them is Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder, blinded last September in Afghanistan when a homemade bomb exploded in his face.

He will compete in a swimming event on the anniversary of his injury, the Team USA website says.
Described by the United States Association of Blind Athletes as "an inspiration to others and a true American hero," Snyder -- who made the swim team while at the U.S. Naval Academy -- returned to the sport within weeks of losing his sight.

In order to make the London 2012 team, he's had to train hard and also learn how to steer a straight course in the lanes of a 50-meter pool without the aid of vision.

There's no doubting his determination.
"I am not going to let blindness build a brick wall around me," USABA quotes Snyder as saying. "I'd give my eyes 100 times again to have the chance to do what I have done and what I can still do."

Veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan also figure in the 300-strong British squad, ParalympicsGB.
Cyclist Jon-Allan Butterworth, who lost an arm to shrapnel from a rocket in Basra, southern Iraq, five years ago is one of them.

He found his way into elite sport thanks in part to Battle Back, an initiative to boost the recovery of injured military personnel run by the UK Ministry of Defence, with help from UK charities, including Help for Heroes.
Butterworth, one of eight former or current British military service personnel selected for the Games, was not an athlete before his injury -- but all that changed when he got on a bike at a talent-spotting day for injured veterans.

'Best thing that's ever happened'
Within months, Butterworth shed excess pounds, embraced the technical aspects of track racing and started to break national and world records.
Three years and two world championship titles later, he is keen to add a Paralympic gold medal to his haul, he told CNN.

"The way I think of it now is, it's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me," he said of his injury. "I've met new people. I've tried a few things out, different sports; done loads of things that I never did before. It's kind of made me the person I am today. And I have changed since losing my arm, but I think only for the better."

Martin Colclough, who runs the Battle Back "Phoenix" program for Help for Heroes and was previously a major in the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, told CNN that Butterworth's remarkable achievements had been helped by close cooperation between Britain and the United States.

Shortly after the Battle Back program was set up in 2008, a handful of British veterans traveled to San Diego to join dozens of American Paralympians at a sports training camp.

There, Butterworth -- who was going through a tricky period in his transition to cycling -- was inspired by U.S. track cyclist Greta Neimanas. Quite literally, she "lent a hand" by letting Butterworth try out her prosthetic arm, specially engineered for cycling, in place of his all-purpose limb, Colclough said. The gesture gave Butterworth a vital confidence boost.

This year, 17 British veterans were the first overseas athletes invited to compete in the "Warrior Games," an event for disabled former and current service members staged by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) in Colorado, Colclough said.

It's not necessarily easy for injured veterans to break into elite sport, especially competing against people who may have had decades to adapt to their impairments, rather than perhaps four or five years, Colclough said.
But Colclough has high hopes both now and for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, by which time the Battle Back program will have been running for twice as long.

The self-discipline and mental strength of those from a military background, coupled with the access they have to military training resources, helps them make the most of natural talent and fight to the top, he said.
In addition, some UK Paralympic training programs are run alongside the equivalent Olympic programs, so all those involved can access the same sports science experts and groundbreaking technological advances.
"This is not a part-time endeavor," Colclough said. "If you want to be world class as a Paralympian, it's a full-time occupation."

Watching around the world
As the competitors from all backgrounds make their final preparations ahead of their big day on the world stage, excitement is building among those set to witness their endeavors.

The London organizing committee says more people than ever before are due to attend these Paralympic Games, with a record 2.3 million tickets already sold and more set to be released.

n addition, some 4 billion TV viewers around the world are expected to tune in live to the 11-day event, which opens Wednesday, the USOC said. The International Paralympic Committee has said it will also stream more than 780 hours of sport live on its website,

In the United States, NBC plans to screen five-and-a-half hours of the Games, in four one-hour shows and a 90-minute special. The USOC says this is more than was broadcast for previous Paralympics, but some disappointed would-be viewers have set up online petitions calling for greater coverage.
Over the course of the Games, American athletes will take part in 19 of the 21 sports contested and attempt to improve on their third place in the medal tables in Beijing.

Some of the events will be well-known to those who were glued to the Olympics -- athletics, archery, table tennis and cycling among them -- while others, such as goalball, played by the visually impaired, wheelchair rugby and boccia, a game similar to petanque, will be less familiar to many sports fans.

Viewers will have to familiarize themselves with a key element in how the Paralympics work -- the system of classification of impairments, designed to ensure that athletes in each sport compete against similarly-abled rivals.
The UK government says it hopes the Games will not only inspire more disabled people to embrace sport at all levels, but also help change public perceptions about disability.

'Pride and honor'
One of those at the forefront of breaking down barriers is South African runner Oscar Pistorius, the first double-amputee to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Born with missing fibulas -- his legs were amputated below the knees as an infant -- Pistorius uses special carbon fiber prosthetic limbs.

Nicknamed "The Blade Runner," Pistorius made it to the semifinals of the individual 400-meter and the 400-meter relay final at London 2012, competing against able-bodied athletes. He will be back in front of the roaring crowds at the Olympic Stadium to defend his Paralympic 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter titles.

His status as a world-class athlete, as well as a disability pioneer, has seen Pistorius grace the cover of publications from the New York Times Magazine to GQ and Men's Health in South Africa. He also made it into Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in 2012.

The United States has its own "Blade Runners" in sprinter Blake Leeper, a double amputee who could challenge Pistorius over 100 meters, and 22-year-old Jarryd Wallace, from Georgia. The latter had his right leg amputated two years ago because of a medical condition but has swiftly transitioned from a talented able-bodied runner to a Paralympic contender.

Other U.S. Paralympians to watch in 2012 include swimmer Jessica Long, who took six medals at the Beijing Paralympics, four of them gold, and wheelchair racer Jessica Galli, who won five medals in 2008 and set a world record over 200 meters.

"Our Paralympians embody what it means to be an American," USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun says on the body's website. "They will compete with the pride and honor that is inherent in representing the United States of America, inspiring Americans young and old with their stories of triumph."
Athletes from other nations will similarly dazzle and inspire those around them, as they overcome all odds to take home medals.

From its humble beginnings in Stoke Mandeville, the place which also lends its name to one of the one-eyed London 2012 mascots, the Paralympic movement has come a long way.
But in its commitment to bringing people together to test and celebrate what they can do, rather than what they cannot, its core spirit has remained unchanged.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Inspiring Story of Matt Woodrum, an 11 year-old with Cerebral Palsy

The Inspiring Story of Matt Woodrum, an 11 year-old with Cerebral Palsy

The following is the definition of courage and inspiration. When 11 year old Matt Woodrum, who has cerebral palsy, was struggling through his 400 meter race at school, his physical education teacher walked over to check on the 5th grader and provide some encouragement. Then an amazing thing happened.  As Matt continued to run, more and more of his school mates converged and congregated alongside him, running and cheering him on until he completed the race. Heroic!
It was his fourth race of the day, and one he didn’t have to run. Only a handful of students opted to give it a try, said Anne Curran, Woodrum’s mother. She said her son doesn’t exclude himself from anything, playing football and baseball with friends and his two brothers.
“He pushes through everything. He pushes through the pain, and he pushes through however long it may take to complete a task,” she said. “He wants to go big or go home.”
The sometimes shaky footage shows Woodrum beginning the race on a steady pace with his classmates, though he quickly lags. As several students pass him on their second lap around the grassy course, Blaine walks over to make sure Woodrum is ok.
“The kids will tell you that Matt never gives up on anything that he sets out to do,” said Blaine, who has been Woodrum’s teacher since kindergarten. “They knew he would cross that finish line, and they wanted to be a part of that.”

Here is the video of Matt!
For more information on Cerebral Palsy please visit:

Friday, August 24, 2012

Early Intervention for Children with Developmental Delays Helps Them Reach their Full Potential

Early Intervention for Children with Developmental Delays Helps Them Reach their Full Potential

Sound-based therapy uses modified music to exercise the muscles in the middle ear, which enhances transmission of sounds to various parts of the brain.
It is an important tool for children with sensory process challenges.
At Milestones for Kids’ Success in Downers Grove, Emmalene Lara is working withoccupational therapist and founder of Milestone Janet Puderbaugh. Emmalene was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder a year ago, says mom, Rebekah.
“We initially had noticed problems with her feeding when she was between nine and 12 months old,” Rebekah said. “She went on like a hunger strike and later we found that she would only eat crunchy foods. So, that’s how we got hooked up with feeding clinic, and they noticed that it was a texture problem that she was having with her foods. She also didn’t like if her hands [were] dirty.”
Shortly after Emmalene was diagnosed with her disability, she started sound-based intervention at Milestone.
“Sound is such a powerful form of sensory input. It can have an influence on a wide range of behaviors,” said Puderbaugh. “The benefits of the sound-based intervention includes improved sensory modulation, improved behavioral organization, improved emotional regulation, improved posture and motor control, improved awareness and engagement of the environment, increased independence in a wide variety of daily skills.”
Milestones starts working with babies all the way up through adolescents.
“We see children with mild type of difficulties, speech language delays, all the way up through more severely involved kids with disabilities. We see a lot of children with sensory processing difficulties,” said Puderbaugh.
“We have 14 therapists on staff currently. We service approximately 270 children a year,” the therapist said.
Since starting at Milestones, Emmalene has made a lot of progress.
“Bath time used to be a huge struggle, and now, she looks forward to them. She has gained a lot more confidence. She is more willing to try new things that she wouldn’t before like grooming and clothing. She is doing really well,” Rebekah said.
To learn more about Milestones for Kids’ Success and their fee structures go

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Choosing the Right School for Special Needs Children

Here is a fantastic story from NPR about choosing the right school for your special needs child. The reporter interviews 3 mothers and the challenges they faced searching for the right fit for their children's needs.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Airline iPad Policy Sparks Disability Dispute

Airline iPad Policy Sparks Disability Dispute

August 22, 2012
American Airlines is taking heat for requiring a teen who is nonverbal to stow the iPad she relies on to communicate during a recent flight.
Carly Fleischmann, a 17-year-old with autism from Toronto, lambasted American Airlines on her Facebook page earlier this week for limiting access to the iPad she uses to speak.
On her way home from Los Angeles last Friday, Fleischmann said that a flight attendant told her to put away the tablet for takeoff and landing and was unwilling to bend even after Fleischmann’s aide explained that it was a communication device.
“She stated to me that it was the policy of the airlines that I couldn’t have my iPad and that with all her years of flying that she’s never seen or heard anybody using an iPad to communicate before,” wrote Fleischmann, who said that her communication needs have always been accommodated by the crew on previous flights.
“My iPad to me is like a voice. Can you imagine being on the airplane and (being) asked not to talk for over 25 minutes,” she wrote, adding that she was ultimately allowed to keep her iPad out after the captain of the plane intervened but the device had to be placed “in front of my seat out of my reach.”
Fleischmann, whose intellectual capabilities went unknown until age 11 when she began to type, is well-known with her story having been featured on ABC News, CNN and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” among others. She has a strong social media presence with over 42,000 fans on Facebook and some 26,000 Twitter followers and they were quick to respond, flooding American Airlines’ Facebook page to demand answers.
Airline officials responded directly to many of the postings indicating that they have reached out to Fleischmann privately, but that the flight attendant acted in compliance with the airline’s policy and federal rules.
“Our flight attendants are responsible for following U.S. Department of Transportation regulations on the accommodation of customers with disabilities,” airline spokesman Ed Martelle said in a statement to Disability Scoop. “American’s electronic device policy is designed to be in full compliance with the DOT. Likewise, federal safety rules require the stowage of personal items during takeoff and landing and prohibit the use of electronic devices at the same periods. We regret any discomfort Carly felt or difficulty this may cause customers.”
Federal rules and American Airlines’ policy on the use of electronics make exceptions for certain medical devices including hearing aids and pacemakers but do not specifically mention assistive and augmentative communication devices.
Late Wednesday, Fleischmann said she was working to get a meeting with representatives of American Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration to discuss the matter.